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Monday, October 1, 2007

New York Film Festival: Blade Runner : The Final Cut

Blade Runner's dystopian future

I had the pleasure of watching the so-called "Final Cut" of Blade Runner Saturday as part of the New York Film Festival. The film was shown at Rose Hall, part of Jazz at Lincoln Center in the Time Warner building which meant a massive screen and stunning surround sound. The film, even 25 years later, is spectacular.

It's hard to comprehend the influence, from fashion to architecture to other films of this movie, and yet it's many followers do nothing to diminish the impact of the original. Perhaps the first science fiction film to fully envision a dystopian future, the grungy gritty neo-noirness still seems prescient. The streets of Los Angeles are a hodge podge of ethnic diversity, animals are scarce and people are fleeing earth if they can afford it or can pass the physical requirements to get away from the ecological and social disaster that the planet has become.

This is, at least for the time being, the definitive cut, replacing 1992's Director's Cut. I had a hard time spotting any major differences and was only enlightened by the Q and A session after the screening with the production designers and the archivists over seeing this restoration. The differences come down to things like digitally replacing Harrison Ford's lips with those of his sons in a minor scene to sync up the sound properly and making the unicorn's horn less wobbly in the unicorn dream sequence.

The seamlessness of the changes are a good thing as the film itself has aged remarkably well, taking on added resonance. Harrison Ford's performance as a bounty hunter of humanoid robots known as a blade runner is among his best, full of subtle shading and humor. The removal of the awful and redundant studio imposed voice-over in the 1992 edition helped things tremendously and it continues to be m.i.a. Also intact is the restored ending from 1992 which is more stunning, bleak and fitting than the original happier ending. Sean Young is gorgeous and icily aloof and Rutger Hauer is chilling and ultimately heartbreaking as the leader of the android pack.

The re-released film, in a sharp print that does justice to some of the most amazing production design and cinematography in cinema history, will only be playing in New York and Los Angeles starting October 10th, but there will also be an overkill 5-disc special edition DVD coming out in time for Christmas. I say overkill because who needs the voice over version, the 1992 version, this new one, and the work print with temporary score and a set of deleted scenes. I mean other than a film geek like myself.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut gets five out five unicorns -- it's a classic:

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